Missing the clean energy revolution.

For decades Australian governments have been underfunding research and development into renewable energy. In fact, Innovation Australia quote Chris Riedy in a UTS report who concludes that:”this effectively creates an uneven playing field for renewable energy, making it more difficult to respond to climate change in the energy and transport sectors”. Indeed Australia is missing out on the clean energy revolution, as well as seeing its best and brightest attracted overseas by countries and companies with vision, who value the quality of their work.

Both researchers and the new ideas they have generated in Australia are moving offshore while we have hitched our wagon to the “coal” train which is fast heading for the precipice.

The effect of this is that the benefits of taxpayer funding to Australian research institutions accrue to other countries and their workers. ASEN points out that “Australian universities have been at the forefront of renewable energy research, particularly solar, for many decades…and that unfortunately the domestic renewable energy industry has been denied the opportunity to benefit from the world-class success of research” derived from them. In addition world-class researchers like Shi Zhegrong who have studied in Australia, have had to look overseas for start up capital. Consequently, another opportunity has been lost to Australia.

On the other hand, some observers posit that these innovations do draw a continual revenue stream from royalties, however, in doing so, Australia also forgoes the skilling of the workforce for the technologies of the new millenium, as well as the greater export revenues that would help our Balance of Payments.

The extent of the underfunding of renewable energy in comparison to the fossil fuel industries is highlighted by Reidy who states that “clean coal” and “clean gas” projects receive $335 million while a solar power station project receives $75 million. It becomes obvious then that there is no level playing field for renewable energies.

Clearly the Rudd government will need to address these issues if Australia is to not only be innovative, but also grow these new industries locally and so reap the benefit of these government funded innovations for all taxpayers.

It is true that current government policies on renewable energy go some way forward, encompassing : substantially increasing the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target; offering $10,000 low interest loans for Australian families to undertake green home improvements; providing rebates for rooftop solar power systems and for solar hot water across Australia; and the establishment of a $50 million Australian Solar Institute and a $50 million geothermal initiative. Nevertheless these initiatives and more, need to encourage entrepreneurs to take the risk and invest in new renewable energy ventures so that Australia does not miss out on the growing opportunities that are opening up world-wide.

Australia has a strong history of innovation and quality research, and the Rudd government must ensure that renewable energy projects and research institutions get the support and incentives they require. This should aim to not only retain the innovations but also the innovators. If we have have not maximized our position in the past, now should be the time to ensure that Australia does not miss the clean energy revolution.

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~ by abstraktbiblos on Thursday, 20 December, 2007.

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